QQQ 31 May 15, 2019: The Gatekeepers’ Role in Supporting High-Risk Populations – Part 2

QPR Quick Quotes: May 15, 2019 The Gatekeeper’s Role in Supporting High Risk Populations: Part 2
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May 15, 2019

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The Gatekeepers’ Role in Supporting High-Risk Populations:

Part Two

– Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D

Evidence now indicates that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations, are indeed, at elevated risk for suicides.                                Paul Quinnett, Ph.D.

    The April QPR Quick Quotes article provided an example of a corporate executive who revealed his homosexuality, after he married, was a respected family man, and held an excellent job in his profession. With proper support and understanding from family, friends, and those in his workplace, this gay man was able to integrate his long-held secret into his family and business life. Today he lives a successful life that he never believed possible—before he owned his truth. In the article, references include the many challenges that individuals of the LGBT group face. Part Two of the piece features highlights of an interview with a female airline pilot who transitioned from “Don” to “Kelly” at age forty.

41% of transgender adults said they had attempted suicide, in one study. The same survey found that 61% of transgender people who were victims of physical assault had attempted suicide. [1]

    Born the eldest of two sons, Kelly was given her father’s name at birth—Donald Lepley, II.  Her family was close and her relationship with her father was strong. Kelly’s lifelong dream was to become an aviator. By the time she was 21, Kelly was a flight engineer on the Lockheed Electra. Like most successful airline pilots, her career was filled with stepping stones before landing her dream job as a pilot at UPS.  

    Determined to play the role of a man, Kelly married twice. While her first marriage was short, her second marriage lasted for fourteen years and resulted in the adoption of two daughters. At the expense of her personal life, Kelly’s career flourished. She and her family enjoyed the healthy life associated with that of a successful airline pilot, living in a beautiful home, owning multiple rental units, and selling real estate, while serving on the Board of an International charity that cared for orphans in India. From the outside world looking in, she was living the good life. However, what most people did not see, was the internal pain she held within. 

    While Kelly never felt suicidal, she endured years of trauma that slowly took a toll on her life; manifesting into depression, frustration, and anger. Little was known of Gender Dysphoria when she was growing up. Till this day, many outside the medical community do not understand the ramifications for those who suffer from this condition. Leaders of the Christian faith cast them as “Confused”. As Kelly states, “No one would choose this path out of confusion.” 

    They know who they are. As a young girl, Kelly’s mother learned of her struggle at the tender age of 10. There were no resources back in the 1970’s. Very little research had been done prior to that point. All her mom had, was the Bible. It was then she learned of “God’s perfection” in creating her as a boy. For the next 20 years, Kelly’s survival tool was to suppress her identity by focusing on what she loved; that being to fly.

    As Kelly’s career was reaching its pinnacle; years of suppression were pulling her inward. She saw herself regressing from society and those she loved. A pivotal moment in her quest to find the truth happened after the loss of her daughter, Kaitlyn in the year 2000. Kaitlyn was born with a Congenital Brain Malformation. Her life was short, but it made a profound impact on Kelly. The Church embraced her family during that period, supporting them with their love and generosity. They accepted the fact her daughter was born with very little grey matter in the brain, yet in reality they could not accept Kelly for who she really was.

    It was for this reason, Kelly began to research what she was suffering from, corresponding with doctors, scientists, psychologists, and religious leaders from around the globe.  Was this something she created or was there an underlying factor? If the latter, how could she live with it? If she dealt with it, how would God look upon her? These were questions she sought answers to knowing, over time, her pain threshold was not going away. Rather, it was reaching its breaking point and in the near future she would need help.  

    That toll came to a head on July 27th, 2009, when the pressure in the bottle, could no longer be contained. For over thirty years she had suppressed her true-self, knowing that if she sought help, life for her and her family would forever be altered. This weighed heavily on her decision to hold back until that time where she could no longer contain such pain. It was on that date, when the threshold of losing oneself had become greater than the pain of losing everything, and she could contain it no more.

    As expected, that acknowledgement of her desire to seek professional help came with great cost. Within two weeks of her disclosure, her wife would file for divorce. Leaders of her church would weigh in, giving her an ultimatum. Either accept the counseling advice that included prayer, repentance, and counseling from someone who had no expertise in this field or face dire consequences of losing her family.  

    Unable to accept their ultimatum, she was ostracized from her church, shunned by her friends, and wound up in court fighting to see her kids. She would go on to lose everything she had worked for and wound up living in a garage in Alaska. Looking back on that part of her journey she admits, “Transition is not for the weak of heart.”  It took a strength from within, a belief in oneself, and an unwavering faith in her God to lead her through that tumultuous time. 

    When asked if it was worth it, she unequivocally said, “ABSOLUTELY!  No amount of wealth, possessions, or achievements, can equate to living authentically”. You can see it in her eyes. You can hear it in her voice. There is just an overwhelming peace about her. She is the real deal. What most people take for granted, Kelly does not. She pointed out that upon her surgery there was an overwhelming relief knowing that for the first time her life; her mind, body, and soul were now one.

    Today, Kelly is now Captain on UPS’s largest plane the B747-400/-8, responsible for the carriage of millions of dollars in packages over long distances where critical decisions made in split seconds matter. It is a responsibility she does not take lightly. It is for this reason, she now shares her story publicly. Her passion is to help those who are suffering through their own journey to see they too can overcome what may seem monumental.  

[1]    Suicide Awareness, Voices for Education, SAVE


About QPR

QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer, and is a research-based intervention that anyone can learn. If you are interested in learning more about how to become a Gatekeeper and becoming part of a more extensive network that is dedicated to suicide prevention, please contact us. The Foundation works with the QPR Institute to customize this successful intervention for cruise lines, aviation companies, human resources professionals, and other workplace groups. To learn more about the training classes offered by the Family Assistance Foundation, and for information about upcoming Gatekeeper classes and how you can become a trainer within your workplace go to fafonline.org. You can also contact Cheri Johnson at cheri.johnson@aviem.com

Upcoming Gatekeeper Trainings

Atlanta Gatekeeper Training

September 27, 2019

Atlanta Train-the-Trainer Training

September 27, 2019

QPR Gatekeeper and Train-the-Trainer Training will be offered at additional locations when additional dates for Foundation Member-Partner Meetings are announced for 2019.

© 2019 QPR Institute Inc./Family Assistance Education & Research Foundation

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